I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was young, fifteen or sixteen years old, but before that I had been seen by doctors, psychiatrists, and psychologists for depression. I think ‘manic’ stages were assumed to be me being a ‘normal’ kid: happy, productive, and full of life and energy.
During the time after diagnosis I was put on, taken off of, and changed to so many different medications. Each with the promise that we would find something that worked, something that would make the hopeless feelings disappear. Every new medication brought new side effects from nausea to what I like to call ‘zombie effect’. I was very frustrated with all of it. All the doctors and specialists would tell me that the medications were working, but I wasn’t feeling anything. I wasn’t depressed, but I wasn’t happy either. I wasn’t living. I was a shell of myself. I found no enjoyment in things I used to love; like reading, but because I wasn’t hopeless and feeling like I wanted to end my pain the specialists were satisfied.
I was not.
Looking back now I know I could have helped myself more than I did. Instead I gave up on the system. I felt like I wasn’t being listened to. I felt like no one cared as long as I didn’t hurt myself. I stopped all my medications.
I found new ways to cope. I immersed myself into books and stories as an escape from reality. I found enjoyment in my manic episodes and I struggled through the depression. I was in denial.
It wasn’t until two years ago, when I was twenty-eight, that I sought help again. In the mean time I had gotten married, and divorced, and married again. I had two children. I earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice and a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I was living a pretty normal life and dealing with my ups and downs in my own way.
It wasn’t enough. I wanted to balance myself out and I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that alone. I went to see my doctor. Immediately he suggested medication and therapy. I had been against medication for so long that I didn’t even know where to begin. That first appointment my doctor was a champ! He went through every single one of my options with me and helped me choose one that we both felt would help minimize my depression and mania. I was also awestruck by the fact that he wanted me on the lowest dosage possible with an option to up it as I saw fit.
I was back in control!
I went to speak to a social worker and felt that therapy was not something I wanted to take advantage of at the time, but I have an open referral if I ever change my mind.
Now I am living with bipolar disorder and managing it in the way that is best for me. I still have my ups and downs, but I have tools to balance them out.
I went from surviving my disorder to embracing it. Bipolar disorder does not define me anymore.
To read more from Jessica, see her posts for IBPF here or check out her personal blog.